Mayor's Muzak Fails To Soothe Some Residents The mayor of the high desert town of Lancaster, Calif., says he believes he's found the solution to bringing down crime and making people in the city generally happier and less stressed. He's piping in new age music and bird songs all around downtown. Residents are not necessarily happy. Gloria Hillard reports.

Mayor's Muzak Fails To Soothe Some Residents

Mayor's Muzak Fails To Soothe Some Residents

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The mayor of the high desert town of Lancaster, Calif., says he believes he's found the solution to bringing down crime and making people in the city generally happier and less stressed. He's piping in new age music and bird songs all around downtown. Residents are not necessarily happy. Gloria Hillard reports.

SUSAN STAMBERG, host:

More music now. The mayor of Lancaster, California, says he believes he has found the solution to reducing crime, and making people in his city less stressed. He is piping in New Age Music and birdsongs in all of downtown.

Gloria Hillard has more.

(Soundbite of a roadway)

GLORIA HILLARD: The first thing you notice about Lancasters downtown is that everyone is obeying the 15-mile an hour speed limit. And then there are the passersby who seem in too good of a mood.

Joe Cabral, communications manager for the city, smiles knowingly.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JOE CABRAL (Communications Manager, Lancaster): We have 70 Bose speakers throughout whats called The Boulevard.

HILLARD: Where six hours a day the city pipes in what Cabral calls generative sounds; calming music - water lapping, birds chirping.

Mr. CABRAL: Which have been proven to be soothing, relaxing and stimulate your cognitive brain.

(Soundbite of birds and Music)

HILLARD: It seemed to be working for lunchtime strollers Autumn Rodriguez and Ernestine McClure.

Does it make you feel less stressed?

Ms. AUTUMN RODRIGUEZ: I think it does - never really thought about it that way. But absolutely.

Ms. ERNESTINE MCCLURE: I think I prefer this to the rock and roll, because its high pitch; thats very soothing and relaxing

Mayor R. REX PARRIS (Lancaster, California): The nature sounds; the water is an overlay thats a little louder than the birds.

HILLARD: Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris says he got the idea for the soundscape after researching the effects of sound on emotions.

Mayor PARRIS: And then on top of that you have the music itself, which is timed at one half the human heart rate, all designed to lower stress levels - which will reduce poor judgment crimes. You know like fights, obstruction of justice, resisting arrest - stupid stuff.

HILLARD: Passerby Bill Yokum gave a listen, smiled and tipped his white cowboy hat.

Mr. BILL YOKUM: Im for it. I love music and itll do it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. YOKUM: Good man.

HILLARD: Nearly everyone I talked to said they thought the sounds did make them feel more, well, peaceful.

Mr. STEVE WILSON: I dont know.

HILLARD: Okay, Steve Wilson isnt thrilled.

Mr. WILSON: I doubt if itll...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WILSON: It wouldnt affect me I dont think. I dont notice any difference.

HILLARD: The next plan for downtown Lancaster? The mayor wants a designated Smile Zone.

Mayor PARRIS: Were going to put, you know, posters up telling everybody its a Smile Zone. If youre not smiling, youve got to leave. You know, it's going to be a fun thing - they really dont have to leave.

(Soundbite of music)

HILLARD: Because that could be - well, kind of stressful.

(Soundbite of music)

HILLARD: For NPR News, Im Gloria Hillard.

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